By Nathan Baker
Tennessee law enforcement is applauding a recent Supreme Court decision affirming the constitutionality of taking DNA samples from suspects in certain felonies.
The state has collected samples since 2008.
The justices split 5-4 in deciding the case Monday, ruling the use of DNA samples to identify suspects did not constitute an unreasonable search or seizure forbidden by the Fourth Amendment.
Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes said jail officers collect a buccal swab, collecting saliva from inside the cheeks of suspects of serious crimes, as part of the booking process into the facility.
The samples are sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation crime lab in Knoxville, one of three statewide, where they are analyzed for certain genetic markers and then entered into the federal Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS.
“I think it’s a great thing,” Mathes said Tuesday. “If we’ve got their DNA on file, we could tie that person to a burglary where we find blood on the scene or a cigarette with saliva — any kind of DNA and we’re in business.”
The passage of the Johnia Berry Act in 2007 by the State Legislature ordered that those arrested in the state on charges considered violent felonies, which include murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated child abuse, robbery, carjacking, sexual battery, rape and aggravated arson, submit a DNA sample before their release from jail.
If the person is found not guilty of the charges, the statute orders that the sample be destroyed by the TBI.